There’s a severe shortage of hockey during the COVID-19 health crisis, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing going on in the puck world.
With that in mind, and in case you missed it, we’re here to catch you up on a little bit of this and a little bit of that from the Los Angeles Kings organization during the break.
Doughty Ranks High in
Some NHLPA Player Poll Categories
Drew Doughty is as popular as ever among his NHL peers.
Doughty tied for fifth with the San Jose Sharks’ Brent Burns in voting for the top defenseman in the NHL Players Association player poll, a survey of 600 NHLers. Those two received 6.54 percent of the vote, behind the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Victor Hedman (37.88 percent), the Washington Capitals’ John Carlson (21.37 percent), and the Nashville Predators’ Roman Josi (9.04 percent).
Related: Best Nicknames in Hockey
Doughty was also voted as the second funniest player in the league with 6.94 percent of the vote, behind the Florida Panthers’ Keith Yandle (17.98 percent).
In trash-talking, only the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand (25.87 percent) is considered better than Doughty (13.37 percent).
Streaming Simulated NHL ’20 Games Helped Keep Fan Base Connected
One big hit for the franchise during the downtime was a streaming NHL ’20 simulated video game version of the Kings’ handful of final regular-season contests. (from ‘Kings turn to video game simulations to keep fans engaged amid coronavirus shutdown,’ LA Times, 03/29/2020) The streams, seen by thousands according to the Los Angeles Times, occurred the days the real games would have been played. To make it seem more realistic, play-by-play announcer Alex Faust and analyst Jim Fox called the action live. In one of those offerings, Los Angeles defeated the Anaheim Ducks 6-4 on Saturday, getting a late empty-netter to finish off a close one.
On Sunday, the Kings’ virtual reality continued with a 5-3 victory over the Dallas Stars in what was advertised as “Fan Appreciation Night.”
“It doesn’t replace hockey in full. But it’s a fun way to get together and talk shop for a little while. We all wanted to pitch in and bring a little bit of fun. It showed that, ‘Hey, we’re still here. We’re all still family. This Kings family will get through this period together.’ However much levity we can bring to the situation is what we’re trying to do.”Alex Faust
Madden Comes Aboard
To Help With Youth Movement
Center Tyler Madden, a college star for the Northeastern Huskies, is on board in the Kings’ system after signing an entry-level contract on March 30. He was a two-time Hobey Baker Memorial Award nominee, potting 19 goals with 18 assists this season.
Related: Longest Stanley Cup Droughts
In addition, Madden was a silver medalist with the U.S. team at the 2019 World Junior Championship. He had two years of college eligibility left before turning pro.
The Kings received the rights to Madden in the trade that sent Tyler Toffoli to the Vancouver Canucks in February.
According to Dobber Prospects, Madden — the son of three-time Stanley Cup champion John Madden — has an NHL certainty rating of 9.0 (on a scale of 10, the odds of a player becoming a full-time NHL player).
McLellan Clear on His Distaste
of Lottery Tournament Proposal
Kings coach Todd McLellan thinks that a draft lottery pick tournament is a bad idea.
If somehow the NHL resumes its season and gets to the playoffs, there has been talk around the league for a tournament that includes all the teams that don’t qualify for the postseason. The winner would get the top pick in the June NHL Draft.
“I’m not a fan of it, one bit,” he told Sean Leahy of NBC Sports. “I don’t think the draft and the draft lottery was put in to reward the winner of a tournament. When you take teams that don’t make the playoffs … so team No. 17, if that’s the number, might miss the playoffs by one point. You compare them to teams at No. 31 … there’s a big discrepancy between Nos. 17 and 31. No. 17 is going to have a greater chance of winning, and they’re less likely to need the first pick overall. So to me, it’s counterintuitive to do it that way. It makes no sense. But I’m only one voter.”
Without having to go through a competition like that, the Kings already have a 9.5 percent chance to get the top pick, also known as the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes. Only three teams have better odds — the Detroit Red Wings (18.5 percent), Ottawa Senators (13.5 percent) and the San Jose Sharks (11.5 percent).
Media Content Coordinator
Jablonski Is Living a Dream
Jack Jablonski’s career path is on the upswing after being hired by the Los Angeles Kings as a media content coordinator in January.
A former intern with the team and a USC graduate, Jablonski was paralyzed as a Minnesota high school hockey player after taking a hit from behind in 2011.
“I had always dreamed of signing an NHL contract. Unfortunately, that dream was taken away 8 yrs ago. Today, I’m proud to share that I’ve started a full time job with the @LAKings as a Content Coordinator & working in podcasting, radio and TV! Thank u to all who have helped me.”Jack Jablonski, on Twitter
There’s a listing for Jablonski, a forward in high school at Benilde-St. Margaret, on Elite Prospects. The injury Jablonski suffered has turned out to have a positive impact on the safety factor in Minnesota high school hockey.
According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, high school penalty data from more than 18,000 games show a drop in infractions for checking from behind and boarding — from 1,600 in 2011-12 to less than 500 overall in 2017-18.
“I believe the game has changed and that it is a safer game,” Minnesota State High School League associate director Craig Perry said (from ‘How High School Hockey In Minnesota Has Changed Since Jablonski’s Injury, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Dec. 27, 2018).
Bowkus’ Death Is a Loss For Southern California Hockey
Jack Bowkus, a highly regarded coach in SoCal, died of cancer on March 28.
Bowkus spent more than 20 years coaching in the California Wave and the Jr. Kings youth programs, winning state and district titles with three national runner-up finishes.
Bowkus played minor league hockey in North America and Europe, spent 11 years as the Dallas Stars’ skills development coach, head coached the Indianapolis Ice of the United States Hockey League for one year, and owned and operated the Cali Prospects Camp.
Kings Prospect Ingham
Wins Humanitarian Award
Sixth-round draft pick Jacob Ingham won the 2019-20 Ted Scharf Humanitarian Award, which goes to a Kitchener Rangers player who contributes most to the community.
After his grandparents were involved in a serious auto accident and his grandmother needed to receive blood, Ingham and his family hooked up with the Hockey Gives Blood organization.
A goaltender, Ingham donated $5 for every save he made this season and the Kitchener club matched it with another $5 for every save. With additional donors, the total raised for Canadian Blood Services was $26,010.
Rota Watches Kings Game
After Long Delay
Randy Rota spent parts of six seasons as a winger in the NHL and WHA, including the 1973-74 campaign with Los Angeles. Rota hadn’t seen a Kings game since he left town, but that changed on Feb. 23, when he hit the Staples Center for a game against Edmonton.
“It’s a new era,” Rota told Mike Commito of LAKings.com. “It’s so unbelievably fast and impressive now.” Rota scored 38 goals with 39 assists in 212 NHL games.
Carter Scores, With
an Assist to Iafallo
What are friends for, if they don’t pull through when you need them? Center and alternate captain Jeff Carter found out he can count on left-wing Alex Iafallo.
According to multiple media reports, Iafallo recently sent a drone over to Carter’s house, delivering toilet paper that is scarce to nonexistent in stores due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Next Big Step Is the June Draft
Pretty soon, the Kings will be putting their full attention into the NHL Entry Draft, which was originally scheduled June 26-27 in Montreal and has been postponed to a date to be announced.
The team has 12 picks, with three in the second round, two each in the third, fourth and sixth rounds, and one each in the first, fifth and seventh rounds.
This is the serious hockey business stuff, far away from toilet paper drops and player polls.
BarDown wrote last month that the Kings are trying to get Will Ferrell to represent them at the NHL Draft Lottery. That could bring luck, or the joke could be on the Kings if the lottery balls don’t come out their way.
According to The Athletic (from ‘Wheeler: Every Lottery Team’s Biggest Need At The 2020 NHL Draft’, April 7, 2020), if Lafreniere is not available, the best route to go is defense. That reasoning is partly based on general manager Rob Blake’s shipping out of blueliners Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort in February. Writer Scott Wheeler’s suggestion is to go for the Erie Otters’ Jamie Drysdale.
The sugary simulated video games are already fading away, leaving fans with a hankering for bigger things. They’re jonesing for the lottery, the actual draft, training camp, the progress of the players in the farm system, and the sound of skates digging into the ice.
>> Sports journalist since 1981
>> Grew up in Marlboro, Mass., and live in Mililani, Hawaii
>> “I always play to win when it comes to skin and bones.” — Bill Lee/Warren Zevon
>> No coach ever screamed “pass the puck” at me